Oh noes, tops have to trust their bottoms

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of whining about how terribly dangerous topping is, how a malicious bottom could pretend everything was fine, then change their mind after the scene is over and run around telling everyone what an awful  nasty person you are.

So, you mean tops need to vet their bottoms and get to know them well enough to trust them?!?!?!111! That’s nothing like how bottoms need to vet their tops and get to know them before putting their physical safety in their hands. *facepalm*

Yes, topping can be dangerous. You might try something and end up really freaked out about how much you enjoyed it. You might make a mistake and hurt someone in a way they don’t enjoy. You might run across a trigger someone didn’t know they had and re-traumatize them through no fault of your own. You might ask someone to try something that you’ve fantasized about for years and get nothing but a weird look and “…you want to do what?!” and end up absolutely crushed. And sure, fine, there’s an infinitesimal but non-zero change that if the moon is in Capricorn and it’s the 4th Tuesday of the month and your “malicious” bottom has video footage of them using their safeword and you ignoring it, and they’re willing to explain in detail to the cops how they ended up at your place in bondage, you might possibly see the inside of a jail cell.

Or, in terms of things that might actually, you know, happen, a bottom  might have their limits casually disregarded while they’re tied up and unable to do anything about it. If they’re new to the scene, if they’re playing with someone who runs an event or who “everybody knows is a good guy” then there’s very little chance that the asshole who hurt them will suffer any consequences whatsoever.

The more I read of this ridiculous fear that a evil meanie-pants bottoms who just so happen to be gifted actors will endure a traumatic scene while appearing perfectly happy, then turn around and accuse the poor, innocent dom of violating their consent after tricking them into thinking everything was fine, the more it reminds me of the sad little misogynistic trolls who are convinced evil, evil women are running around having consensual, enthusiastic sex with poor, innocent men just so they can ruin those men’s lives by crying rape the next day.

My advice in both cases is exactly the same: if in doubt, don’t. If you want to have sex with a woman and she isn’t enthusiastically participating, stop and check in. If you want to play with a bottom and they aren’t enthusiastically participating, stop and check in. If either one of them stops reacting, goes quiet, starts reacting differently, can’t promptly and clearly reassure you they’re having a good time, just fucking stop! It’s not that goddamn complicated.

Just like no magical mind-reading powers are necessary to tell if a woman wants to have sex, there are no magical  mind-reading powers needed to figure out whether a bottom wants to play. Fucking ask them! If you trust them, problem solved! If you don’t trust them, either don’t play or get to know them better and ask again later.

If you can’t tell whether or not the person you’re playing with is having a good time and can’t be bothered to find a workaround then you are the goddamn problem, not some imaginary malicious bottom.

6 thoughts on “Oh noes, tops have to trust their bottoms

  1. Fucking AMEN.

    I’m just gonna repeat what I said on Tumblr:

    As a top, it scares the shit out of me that there are tops out there who worry more about their bottom “tricking” them than about them being the ones to hurt or traumatize someone with careless behavior.

    I will always take precautionary measures to avoid hurting or upsetting someone I’m in a scene with. I will always take precautionary measures to make sure I have continued consent. I will always take precautionary measures to make sure my bottom feels that they can trust me — my assertions that they can are meaningless, I have to give them reasons to trust me.

    It makes me really, really sad to know that other people are unwilling to take that responsibility on themselves, and instead place the burden on bottoms to not only be vigilant for creepy behavior from their tops, to be on guard against getting hurt, but to also be responsible for reassuring their tops that their intentions are good.

    Trust is scary. It involves risk.

    Yes, tops, it sucks to be uncertain about partners. It sucks to want easily-available, casual play, and be afraid to engage in it for fear of getting hurt, or accused of wrongdoing when you had nothing but good intentions and were doing your best. It sucks to have a smorgasbord of options before you, and be afraid of taking any of them, because they represent too many unknowns that might harm you in some way.

    How do you think your bottoms feel?

    One of the things you take responsibility for as a top, one of the things you never completely pass off to your play partner, is their safety. It is your job to maintain it, to be vigilant, to constantly monitor both them and yourself. That’s a big job, it is. People often completely misapprehend the headspace a top can be in — it’s not a place of total assurance and certainty and utter control, especially for tops without a whole lot of IRL experience. So yeah, it’s scary to suddenly have this responsibility for a whole other person’s body and mind. That’s what this kink is all about — power. Who has it. And Uncle Ben was right. With great power comes great responsibility.

    So I get that having to watch your own psychological state in addition to your bottom’s psychological state is hard. But your bottom is going to be in all kinds of positions — both physical and psychological — where they may not be able to respond in their own best interests. The nature of what they do for you makes them vulnerable! Maybe they are physically unable to speak or gesture. Maybe they are so triggered they just cut out, like a power outage, and they can’t respond; maybe they’re suddenly afraid to say no, even though they know they should. Maybe they are so far in subspace they are not capable of muddling out long enough to object.

    Maybe they are simply so fucking turned on they agree to or ask for something that they previously considered out-of-bounds in the heat of the moment, and they feel upset, confused, hurt, and scared afterward because they crossed a line they didn’t mean to, and you agreed to it despite coming to a different arrangement earlier — they needed you to enforce the boundaries they set up before the scene started, and you didn’t. THERE’S a big one I almost never see anyone talk about. How much of this “tricky sub” business is related to that, do you think? (God help you if you’re the one who pushed them to re-negotiate in the middle of a scene — that is not something that you should do, people, and I really want to see that mentioned more often! It’s so easy to hurt people this way! Tops can get pushed too far this way, too!)

    As the top it is your responsibility to watch for those moments, and if there is even the slightest doubt, it is your responsibility to check in with your partner, or bring the scene to an end, care for them, and talk it out when they are able to articulate themselves again.

    All that is the only defense you have against false accusations, and you should be doing it anyway.

    • It makes me really, really sad to know that other people are unwilling to take that responsibility on themselves, and instead place the burden on bottoms to not only be vigilant for creepy behavior from their tops, to be on guard against getting hurt, but to also be responsible for reassuring their tops that their intentions are good.

      Yes! That is some blatant douchebaggery right there.

      How do you think your bottoms feel?

      Exactly! Being told you violated your bottom’s consent when you thought everything was fine would suck, but how much more would it suck to be tied up and helpless and suddenly discover the person you’re playing with does not have your best interests at heart?

      maybe they’re suddenly afraid to say no, even though they know they should

      Also an excellent point. We need to recognize how hard it can be to say no even when you know you should and develop workarounds. It would be great if everyone felt perfectly comfortable immediately and strongly saying no when something stopped working for them, but can we just admit we don’t live in a perfect world already? It’s not like it’s news that people (particularly female-assigned people) have trouble saying no, so either you’re interested in finding something that does work or you just want a convenient cop-out when (not if) something goes wrong.

      they needed you to enforce the boundaries they set up before the scene started, and you didn’t. THERE’S a big one I almost never see anyone talk about.

      I didn’t even think of that. Now I’m even more suspicious about those ‘everything was fine until the next day when that evil lying bottom decided I violated their consent’ stories.

      God help you if you’re the one who pushed them to re-negotiate in the middle of a scene — that is not something that you should do, people, and I really want to see that mentioned more often!

      Now I want to rant about that! I thought it was too obvious to mention, but I should know by now that nothing is too obvious 🙁

      • “I didn’t even think of that. Now I’m even more suspicious about those ‘everything was fine until the next day when that evil lying bottom decided I violated their consent’ stories.”

        Yup.

        I’ve been on both ends of that, actually, and while nothing bad happened either time and everything turned out okay, it was a near enough miss that I learned the lesson well. I am not terribly bothered by the time I was on the bottom end of that, but the time I was on the top end does bother me still, even though we worked it out and he was okay with it after talking it out, thank goodness.

        “Now I want to rant about that! I thought it was too obvious to mention, but I should know by now that nothing is too obvious :(”

        Certainly a topic big enough to get its own rant and not an aside. It’s just one of my hot buttons, I guess. Re-negotiating in the middle is just . . . I’m personally REALLY susceptible to that, and I know I cannot be the only one. I KNOW this about myself, I UNDERSTAND how it works, and I can explain it to partners, and I still worry. Imagine if I wasn’t as aware of it yet, or wasn’t as good at/as comfortable with explaining things as I am. If I was younger, and not 36, say. If I was really new to the scene, new to even the IDEA of BDSM as a bigger thing than just “stuff I think about when I fap” and still sort of giddy with the pleasure of finally finding people like me. People who understand. Surely, they Get It. Surely, they can be trusted. Imagine how badly that could go, and how fast. It worries me. No, it SCARES me.

        Asserting yourself is a skill, and it’s not one that the BDSM scene as a whole should assume people have, or one that folks should insist people have before they’re worthy of consideration. Like, if you have problems with assertiveness and you play and you get hurt, that’s somehow your fault. Yeah, it’d be swell if everyone went into it with that sort of assertiveness and confidence, but people don’t, and when they don’t, it’s not from personal weakness or some failing of theirs or because they are foolish or stupid or any of that. It’s because for whatever reason, that’s hard for them, quite possibly due to a history of emotional abuse (as it was in my case) meaning abusing that further is just . . . really out of line. When people have vulnerabilities, others should respect that, not blame them for it and punish them for it.

        It’s fine to not want to have to do the heavy emotional lifting that comes with dealing with someone who has Issues. It is. I have issues of my own that mean I . . . really don’t always have the spoons to do the work for two. But if you don’t want to slow down enough to be sure your partner is able to keep up with you, DO NOT PLAY WITH THAT PERSON! That’s pretty simple, you know?

        Ugh. I just feel really strongly on this particular matter.

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